Şaban and Ramazan are two clumsy soldiers, who somehow manage to survive World War I intact, as does their long-suffering CO. Now in civilian life, a visit backstage to a nightclub singer sees them accidentally toss a gangster out a window, causing their immediate arrest and promotion by a slightly deaf old commander. Now in a special position, they must solve a mystery in a daffy household, finding a missing diamond known as the Apple...
Şaban Oğlu Şaban is one of Turkish legend Kemal Sunal's most well-remembered comedies. It's a mish-mash of styles, with wartime comedy, followed by peacetime detective work. This is handled pretty effectively, even if it would've been nice to have more military stuff.
The film's portrayal of the Turkish side of the First World War is interesting, seeing the other half of the divide. Particularly for me as an Australian. It's also cool seeing them in modern army uniforms instead of old-fashioned Ottoman uniforms and battlefield Fezs.
The movie amusingly glosses over the fact the Turks lost in WWI. Although I guess that can be seen as just life going on in spite of defeat. We return to the battlefield for the the ending, going full circle with the revolutionary war.
Partway through, Şaban Oğlu Şaban takes a turn into becoming a light Pink Panther knockoff! Clumsy detective, stolen diamond, even some familiar setpieces. To its credit though, it's really only the superficial gags that are used, with the characters and setting being very different.
The comedy here is good! The double act between Şaban and Ramazan carries much of the humour well. The film is heavy on recurring jokes, such as the commander's perpetual bad luck around firearms (his own or Şaban's). While it may repeat the gags a little too much, it's always funny, and does things differently enough each time.
There's plenty of wordplay too. Your mileage on how much you understand depends on either your knowledge of the Turkish language, or the quality of any subtitles you find. There's also the just plain weird sailor talking scene!
The film has a high body count, but it's all in such a comedic sense you can't believe anyone's seriously been hurt
As with many Turkish comedies, we have an opening montage. Some scenes from later, as well as a few gags shot specifically for this intro. Including a...um, colourful joke, involving shoe polish! But the thing to remember is this is from a completely different country. They lack any history with American blackface, so for them this wouldn't have had any negative connotations.
After a while the plot does get a bit thin. The search for the diamond becomes an excuse to have comedic gag after gag, and story takes a backseat. After a while I began to get a little annoyed. The scenes we get aren't bad, but I was wanting to see more clumsy police work, but instead we get scenes of mistaken betrothal and fake circumcision that could be from any other movie.
I was a little confused by the logic at times, like why the heroes try acting blind and other guises to re-infiltrate the house they're already in. And the confined location did harm the movie a bit for me. Pink Panther movies were sometimes fairly thin plots, mostly made up of Peter Sellers goofing off. But those at least had a bit more variety in location, whereas here we're in a more confined space.
The ending is a bit of a free-for-all, with lots of yelling and grabbing, until suddenly war is declared and grinds everything to a halt. There's not really any resolution to anything. Since this was never a heavily story based affair, this isn't a huge deal, but I did wish some threads got a bit of closure. The ending itself is great though. I like how everything comes full circle, and the last gag and line end things on a high.
The characters are a kooky bunch. Şaban is a clumsy but lovable lead, who also gets moments of being an asshole. But never in a genuinely unlikeable way. The same is true for his buddy Ramazan. When they're not searching for clues together or interrogating suspects, they are trying to kill each-other to win the heart of a girl.
More than just the grumpy CO, Husamettin is also having a fling with a desirable nightclub singer, and may have even stolen the diamond for her. The solution to the mystery does seem obvious, but the film throws in a last minute curveball.
Şaban Oğlu Şaban is a neat looking film! I liked the visuals of the camo military section. It's probably shot in a backyard somewhere, but it looks authentic, as do the night-lit trenches. Likewise, the streets of post-war Istanbul look nice with its cobblestoned roads and antique manor houses. Lastly, the film has very colourful fashion! I dug the snazzy suit/fez combo the men sport, while the women wear some garish outfits.
The acting here is a high point, but could depend on the viewer. Kemal Sunal may be annoying to some, and Halit Akçatepe's high-pitched voice here could definitely drive less patient viewers to murder. My opinion falls somewhere in the middle. Sunal is great as usual, while Halit is mostly fun, but his voice can grate at times. Şener Şen is a perfect grouchy authority figure, yelling with perfection. Sıtkı Akçatepe amuses as the deaf and near-sighted commander, Adile Naşit is her usual clucky and cackling self, Ayşen Gruda is funny and cute, and Sevda Aktolga is a beauty.
Şaban Oğlu Şaban is a fun romp, and deservedly ranks as one of Turkey's classics. I didn't love it 100%, but it's definitely worthwhile...